As part of our robotics program, I introduced an activity to the children called “My Robotic Friends” from Thinkersmith for Computer Science Education Week 2013.
What this activity entails is basically one person being the “robot” moving cups with their hands and the others being computer programmers and writing the code for the “robot” to move cups. To simplify the initial introduction. I introduced the symbols as a class where I was the robot and had the children come up and take turns writing the program collaboratively. If a child made an error, they had to help each other figure out the solution, all I did was move the cups by reading their code. I also made it so that each time I put down a cup, my hand reverted back to the start position automatically. Once the children are more familiar with the activity, I will later change this and tell the kids they must program my hand to move back to the start position.
Here is a short introduction to the lesson:
As the robot, the children get the chance to learn how to accurately read basic code. As computer programmers, the children practice writing code. Here is an example of some of the code we wrote as a class. Under it are some examples of the children trying it out independently during choice time. One laminated sheet contains cup stacks that they can try to build and the other is the symbols they use when writing the program.
Today we shifted toward working in smaller groups. The children took turns being the robot and if they weren’t moving the cups they had to help contribute to the code writing.
Here is an example of the code one of the groups wrote. The first code is for cup stack 1 and the second is for cup stack 2. Overall I think they did a great job! We’re going to try reading some of our peers codes next week to check for errors and fix them.
The other thing I love about this activity is that the kids are learning about coding without a computer or some electronic device! In early childhood education, many of us debate and discuss the inclusion of technology in our classrooms. Obviously, I love having access to technology in the classroom but I still value real hands-on learning experiences as well! So, this activitiy gets the children to begin to understand concepts of coding without all the tech and at the same time really learn problem solving skills and critical thinking.